Diamond Clarity Explained

October 02, 2017

Diamond Clarity Explained

The universal method for judging a diamond's quality is known as the 4Cs - Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat Weight.
If you missed my post about the first C (color), you can check it out here. Let's talk about the second and arguably the most important C - Clarity.
To understand diamond clarity, we first need to talk about the factors that determine clarity:

Inclusions and Blemishes

Since natural diamonds grow deep in the Earth under extreme temperature and pressure, each diamond is unique, and most contain natural inclusions.
Inclusions are features enclosed within a gemstone or that extend into it from the surface.

An example of a surface-reaching inclusion is a feather. Feathers are breaks in a diamond. They usually look shiny and white but can be glossy and transparent depending on your viewing direction.

An example of an internal inclusion within a diamond is a crystal. There are about 24 different types of mineral crystals that can be found within diamonds. The most common are actually smaller diamond crystals.

The size, number, location, relief, and nature of inclusions within a diamond are one of the factors that determine a diamond's clarity grade. The other is blemishes.

Blemishes are external features, confined to a gemstone's surface. An example of a blemish is an extra facet, accidentally added by the stone cutter.


The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) developed eleven clarity grades that range from Flawless (essentially a perfect diamond) to Included (full of eye-visible inclusions). Flawless diamonds are extremely rare. Obviously, the closer to Flawless a diamond is on the clarity scale, the more expensive it is. Most diamonds fall into the SI (slightly included) category.

GIA'S DIAMOND CLARITY SCALE

 FL

Flawless
Flawless diamonds contain no inclusions or blemishes visible to an experienced diamond grader using 10x magnification. A flawless diamond needs to be perfect on the inside and outside. If the lapidary (stone cutter) makes a mistake when cutting or polishing a diamond with no inclusions, it cannot be considered Flawless. It gets bumped down to the next category, Internally Flawless.


IF

 

Internally Flawless
Internally Flawless diamonds contain no internal inclusions - only external blemishes that are visible to a skilled diamond grader at 10x magnification. Basically Internally Flawless diamonds have the potential to be Flawless, but the stone cutter goofed.

VVS1 and VVS2

 

Very Very Slightly Included
The inclusions in Very Very Slightly Included diamonds are difficult for a skilled diamond grader to see using 10x magnification. In VVS1 diamonds, the inclusions are so tiny that a skilled diamond grader needs to spend a lot of time examining the diamond from different angles to find them. 
Even then, they're so small that a diamond grader (like me) might start to think that they're seeing things or doubt if anything is actually there. VVS2 diamonds also contain tiny inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under magnification, but they're a bit more visible or numerous.

VS1 and VS2

 

Very Slightly Included
Very Slightly Included diamonds contain inclusions that are minor and range from difficult to somewhat easy for a skilled diamond grader to see under 10x magnification. I keep mentioning skilled diamond graders because these inclusions are so small that unless you have experience grading hundreds of diamonds and know what you're looking for, you probably won't find them. For VS1 and VS2 diamonds, I would need to sit someone down with a loupe or gemological microscope and talk them through exactly how and where to look for the inclusions in order for them to see them. VS2 diamonds very rarely contain inclusions that are visible without magnification. In this case, the inclusions need to be very small and in a location that is not distracting from the overall beauty of the stone - like all the way near the edge of the girdle.

I think VS1 and VS2 diamonds are ideal. If you're not a skilled diamond grader, you won't see any of the inclusions in these stones, so I personally think that it isn't worth your money to pay for a diamond of a higher clarity grade than VS1.

For engagement rings containing diamonds larger than 0.20 carats, Soulbound uses conflict-free VS1 and VS2 diamonds that are certified by the GIA. Your ring will be shipped to you with the GIA report included.

SI1 and SI2

 

Slightly Included
Slightly Included Diamonds contain inclusions that are noticeable and easy (SI1) or very easy (SI2) for a skilled diamond grader under 10x magnification. Eye-visible inclusions are seen often in diamonds graded SI2 clarity.

Be wary of jewelers referring to diamonds as "SI3" clarity. This grade is not part of the GIA diamond clarity scale. It's kindof a misleading way of making a diamond that the GIA would consider I1 clarity seem more desirable.

I1, I2, and I3

 

Included
Included Diamonds contain inclusions that are obvious under 10x magnification and may affect the diamond's transparency and brilliance. Inclusions in I1 and I2 diamonds are easily visible to the unaided and untrained eye. Inclusions in I3 diamonds are extremely easy to see and affect the stone's durability. Therefore, they are not recommended for use in jewelry and are typically used for industrial purposes.


I know diamond grading can be confusing, but hopefully this post helped you understand clarity grades.
If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or
 contact me!




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